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COVID-19 Impacting Caregivers of Children With Cancer

MONDAY, March 15, 2021 -- Caregivers of childhood cancer survivors are experiencing changes to medical care, financial disruptions, and emotional distress due to COVID-19, according to a study published in the April issue of Pediatric Blood & Cancer.

Courtney E. Wimberly, from the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues conducted a survey (April 13 to May 17, 2020) to assess the impact of disruptions due to COVID-19 on caregivers of childhood cancer survivors (321 families; 175 with children under active surveillance/follow-up care and 146 with children no longer receiving oncology care).

The researchers found that caregivers expressed exceptional resiliency, highlighting the similarities between caring for a child with cancer and adopting COVID-19 prophylactic measures. Half of respondents reported delayed/canceled appointments, and 19 percent reported delayed/canceled imaging. One in 10 caregivers (11 percent) reported struggling to pay for basic needs, which was associated with greater disruption to daily life, greater feelings of anxiety, poorer sleep, and less access to social support. Anxiety and poorer sleep were more common among caregivers who reported self-isolating. There was less disruption to daily life, decreased feelings of depression and anxiety, better sleep, and greater hopefulness among respondents who expressed confidence in the government response to COVID-19.

"To better serve caregivers and medically at-risk children, clinicians must evaluate financial toxicity and feelings of isolation in families affected by childhood cancer, and work to provide reliable information on how COVID-19 may differentially impact their children," the authors write.

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